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30 November 2015

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Trey N

Since my mother's grandparents were all Moravians who emigrated to Texas in the 1870s, I've been interested in the history of central and eastern Europe.
I just finished reading "The Teutonic Knights - A Military History" by William Urban, which covers the time and place you're discussing here, TTG. The eastern Baltic lands then were just about as much a major mish-mash of religion, diplomacy, military conflict, etc as the Middle East is today. It sure does suck being a mere peasant just trying to mind his own damn business and raise his family in peace during such times....

AEL

And yet in Canada, our local and provincial politicians are pressuring the Federal government for more than their share of the refugees.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-urged-to-distribute-flow-of-syrian-refugees-across-country/article27538681/

Poul

A sense of proportions is rare when fear rules or old hatred.

On a similar note who would have thought that Gypsies still are the most dislike minority in North-West Europe. In Denmark they are less than 0.001% of the population.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/roma-gypsies-most-negatively-perceived-european-minority-group-survey-finds-a6740746.html

Seamus Padraig

"Get a grip, my brothers and sisters. You lost almost a quarter your population to emmigration since independence. Think about taking in the 1,105 Syrian refugees mandated by the EU."

When you understand WHY Lithuania (and the other Baltics countries) have lost a quarter of their population since 1990 or so, then you may begin to understand why they seem so reluctant to share their national bounty with a bunch of random middle easterners--to wit, they don't much bounty to share. All those people left the Baltics because of the unemployment caused buy IMF austerity. Since then, their costs of living have gone up while their incomes have stagnated. Small wonder that the Wall Street Journal and the big banks consider the Baltics to be capitalist 'success' stories!

Paul Escobar

AEL,

I grew up in Toronto public housing with Sunni Muslims from Somalia to Pakistan. I was in school with them on 911 & throughout the subsequent Afghanistan/Iraq conflicts. We hung out in libraries, prayer rooms during Ramadan, and the parking lot. Because I could care less, they spoke freely and honestly with me.

They are living pressure-cookers. Not all of them will explode. But all of them will support the ones who do. It was such a casual & reasoned thing, I thought nothing of it until I grew up and saw more.

IMO, Canada itself faces no threat. Justin Trudeau is viewed as a wonderful tool and a useful idiot. We have no concept of "melting pot" here, so all these sores will be free to fester.

As Mr. Lang indicated some time ago, it is Americans who should worry. Canada is the perfect place to recruit, setup, or launch an attack against some American target.

Best,
Paul

William R. Cumming

TTG respectfully disagree. Burqa wear not about FREEDOM OF RELIGION but SECURITY IMO!

Balint Somkuti

TTG

it is not the negative effect of muslim migrants the CE countries fear. It is the precedent. You know Brussels equals more and more Miscow

Abu Sinan

Paul, you wrote " But all of them will support the ones who do." This, to be honest, is utter rubbish. I have been in and around the Muslim and Arab world for some 20 years. To categorically state that every Muslim will end up supporting terrorists is nonsense.

If you believe this, then there is only really one option available, and that would be to deport all Muslims from all Western countries. If every Muslim in the West is going to support terrorism, then to not deport them all is negligent.

Having lived and worked around Muslims and Arabs for the last two decades I can confidently say that they are all not all hell bent on supporting terrorists. Believe it or not, many of them are working 24/7 to prevent terrorist attacks in the West.

The Twisted Genius

WRC,

And what are the security implications of hats, hoods and scarves on the streets of Siauliai on a January evening?

jsn

The madness of EU austerity has cost Lithuania not just its educated young, but its hope for any autonomy. This is the same madness that has reduced Greece to failed state status and is the process of eroding the viability of Spain and Finland.

"Austerity" is like cutting the water in a siege except applied through market tools: without money people can purchase nothing, so despite physical proximity to goods, they can't get them because of dependence on the market mechanism for delivery where liquidity is being withheld. Here, liquidity in the broadest sense of jobs with adequate income to support accustomed living standards.

Lithuanians, no more than Greeks or Finns, understand what austerity is doing to them, they just react to the effects and know that they can not help others while they can't even help themselves: they are exporting their own children to maintain what standard of living they can. If the EU wants them to take refugees, the EU needs to ensure them a viable economy in which to absorb them.

Jim Jordan

Lithie Tartars should move to Poland there they should find a more hospitable society. Poland earlier on this year granted asylum to some of their compatriots from the Crimea. I do not know if anyone is still there, the inhabitants were getting on a bit, but in the 90s I had a very interesting time visiting the few remaining Tartar villages along Poland's border with Belarus.

The Twisted Genius

Seamus and jsn,

You are both right about IMF and EU economic policies doing great harm to Lithuania and others. Austerity is a banker's scam.

I also think the Baltic nations are harming themselves by cutting themselves off from Russia. Of course I understand the history behind the distrust and animosity. I lost a lot of relatives to that history. But we must have the faith in ourselves and our society to move beyond that. I grew up in a house where Poles were vilified because of Pilsudski's war on Lithuania after WWI. There were physical bar fighting raids between Polish and Lithuanian bars. My family hated Poles as much as they hated the "Bolsheviki." We've gotten beyond that. At least I have.

Babak Makkinejad

You must admit that Burqa is a God-send for ugly women.

The Twisted Genius

Babak,

Yes, it does provide the blessing of mystery.

Babak Makkinejad

Yup; in darkness, all cats are grey.

confusedponderer

Babak,
one could speculate then whether the Saudis adopted the Burqa out of necessity.

That aside, whenever the topic comes up, my mother's greatest concern about the Burqa is that one cannot readily identify the person under it and that there could be a man underneath for all she knows. All in all, relatively practical concerns.

I for my part simply resent the rare sight of some smug schmuck with his shorty pants and his burqa clad woman in tow. Can't stand the type nor the atitude.

Babak Makkinejad

I do not think so.

There is a story about a group of Iranian men who tried to sneak into a public park in Tehran on the day that it was for use by women alone - 150 years ago or so.

They were caught even though they were wearing chadors - they walked differently than women.

By the way, Mitt Romney lost US elections because women hated the way he walked.

kao_hsien_chih

I wonder if the kind of migrations that took place in the Middle Ages is practicable these days.

During the age of feudalism, the lord and/or the chieftain could bind his entire "people" to the agreements he had made. So the lord could act as the guarantor that every one of his followers would abide by the agreement, or he would punish them himself.

Is there a modern equivalent to this? If anything, that type of self-policing is frowned upon in many communities: Uncle Tom, traitor to his people, etc., are the epithets that such folks get for making nice with the "enemies" and trying to make sure that the agreements are adhered to by all. Since such agreements cannot hold, no one makes such agreements any more. (To be fair, to institute a rule that, say, all Kurds in Germany choose a single set of leaders and must submit to whatever deals that they make with the German state sounds downright wrong and incomprehensible to our modern sentiments.) The problem I see is that, the absence of active and effective self-policing by a given community can be an invitation of group-level stereotyping. To be blunt, a disproportionate subset of violent terrorists are Muslims (one could substitute negative stereotypes of any group here as well. the same logic holds). Most non-Muslims don't know enough about Islam or Muslim peoples to know much, so they resort to stereotyping ALL Muslims as potential terrorists. (yes, people might rightly point out how few terror supporters are among Muslims are, but, with enough fear, many lose the aversion to inflicting massive amount of collateral damage on others.) It only takes a few evil individuals to bring this about. Of course, if a neofeudal arrangement is to be adopted, it will be at the expense of all our post-Enlightenment beliefs about individualism and personal liberty, not to mention enabling those who make up the "community leadership" to establish their own "orthodoxy"...

confusedponderer

On my mother's 75th three cousins of my father - like him they fled late in the war - were talking about die alte Heimat, East Prussia, and about visiting their birthplace in Masuria, the land, the old farm, the Poles that now run it, and the chickens.

At that point the younger brother interjected and said something about old grudges and the elder one quipped: 'Well, they sure looked a lot like our chickens.'

I for my part get along with Poles, but I am a generation away from what they experienced.

Ramojus

TTG,

Wow... They never taught this in Lithuanian Saturday School I attended in Chicago during my youth. I have the Battle of Tannenburg (Žalgirio Mušis) poster hanging in my home.

I am wondering, in regards to Pilsudski; I believe his Lithuanian opponent was Generolas Plehavicius. Is this accurate? Ačiu for enlightening me.

David Habakkuk

kao_hsien_chih,

That comment is very much to the point – and raises a vast range of different issues. These take me a long way beyond my range of knowledge, but for what they are worth, some 'sighting shots'.

1. The United States was formed on the basis of 'republican' ideas, which derive ultimately from 'Renaissance' Italy reworkings of Roman, and Greek, debates. In the case of Rome, a republic, constituted by the repudiation of kingship, ended with the rule of an 'imperator'.

This echoes across the centuries. It also however has the unfortunate consequence that Americans commonly find it difficult to reckon with the complex European arguments which developed in the aftermath of the French Revolution about kingship, feudalism, and related matters.

2. An outgrowth of these is the study 'Kingships and Communities in Western Europe, 900-1300', by the Oxford historian Susan Reynolds – which was followed by her later study of 'feudalism'.

Her argument drew on among other things the work of the French anthropologist Louis Dumont, who learnt Sanskrit as a German POW, was a discipline of one of the greatest French 'Dreyfusard' intellectuals, Marcel Mauss, and had great influence over here.

Among other elements, she took from him the argument that to think that 'hierarchical' structures are simply a matter of power, and exploitation, is simply to relay 'individualist' – otherwise, French revolutionary, propaganda.

3. So in medieval society, authority – of an hierarchical nature – is taken as God-given. But by the same token, the obligation to obey is balanced, at all levels, by the obligation to consult. The richest and most prominent members of a community are expected to act for the others. The point you make about the ability of the lord to act as guarantor of an agreement, I suspect, is bound up with this.

One conception of the justification of the American Revolution, one might say, derives from this tradition: a view of the proper rights of subjects against the sovereign, and of what follows when the sovereign abuses his power. Another, obviously, arises from Jefferson's adoption of the essentially 'individualistic' conception of the 'rights of man'.

Of course, as is the case with all systems, ideological professions are frequently contradicted by actual practice. But they matter, nonetheless.

4. Traditional 'hierarchical' conceptions actually lingered on, in English society, until relatively recently. Indeed, I can say, from experience, that they did not infrequently influence the way that companies used to be run. And, although I have less grasp, I think that this was often the case in Germany – and may be more the case there now than in Britain. (And Britain remains much more strongly monarchist than is often realised. Our 'republican' experiment ended with Cromwell's major-generals -- they cast a long shadow.)

5. The much-debated work of Dumont on caste was actually a prologomen to his later work on the history of 'individualism' in Western society, which was in itself directed to an explanation of 'totalitarianism'.

Ironically, the writer whom he in part developed, and in part repudiated – Arthur Maurice Hocart – was also centrally concerned with such issues. His writings on kingship and the origins of government have enjoyed a revival in recent years, not least among critics of Dumont's writings on India, but their political implications have not been adequately explored.

I must apologise for digressing so far from the issues immediately at hand. But I think it possible that in the light of your own background and interests, you might find some of these arguments of interest.

Matthew

TTG: A few months ago, our WAC hosted a group from Latvia. Behind all the smiles and handshakes were slightly desperate requests for American investment in Latvia. Ironically, immediately after admitting that Latvia had problems with Russia, the delegation leader then bragged about Latvia's "strategic location." When I asked what's the benefit of Latvia's location if Latvia has a lousy relationship with Russia...well, the conversation then became quite awkward.

kao_hsien_chih

David Habakkuk,

No problem. I do it all the time myself: being a mathematical historian, as I call myself (as a game theorist with background in medieval European history who works in context of modern American politics), is practically an invitation to discourse at length. Unfortunately, I'm also liable to run up against people who flatly refuse to listen to me, alas.

The Middle Ages were far more fascinating period than we think (and, in many senses, far more "modern" than we think--in the sense that many things that matter greatly today, e.g. reputation, were of central import.) and offers a lot that is applicable to how the world works today, if only we step back a bit and think things through. Unfortunately, many medieval practices that made sense in their contexts, also militate against the increasingly outdated post-enlightenment norms we fancy. A lot of problems today stem from these contradictions, I fear.

William R. Cumming

DH this is a fabuluous analysis IMO! Many thanks!

Babak Makkinejad

Spot on regarding the Medieval period that the Renaissance propagandists did so much to denigrate and disparage.

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